Used Chrysler PT Cruiser
2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser (Photo: Chrysler)
When the PT Cruiser was introduced for 2001, nothing on the road looked as unique. Classified in the US as a truck, the PT Cruiser rides on a car-like front-wheel drive unibody platform, with a 4-cylinder engine. Chrysler PT Cruiser handles well and has a practical interior with easy access and versatile cargo space. First, Chrysler PT Cruiser was available only as a five-door wagon. A two-door convertible was added for 2005 but, discontinued after 2008.
For 2001, the only available engine was a 150-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder DOHC. This engine has a timing belt that needs to be replaced at recommended intervals.
A turbocharged version was added for 2003.
Transmission choices included a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser Limited (Photo: Chrysler)
Inside, the PT Cruiser also looks like no other car. The 2001-2005 models had a center console designed in a similar fashion to many other Chrysler cars, while the 2006 and later models got a retro-styled dashboard with the old-fashioned instruments and a signature clock at the top of the center console (in the photo above). The access is easy. The upright driver position gives a good view of the road ahead, but the thick rear pillars reduce rear visibility. The rear seats can be folded forward or removed completely giving the PT Cruiser plenty of cargo space.
On the road, the PT Cruiser is easy to handle. The ride is firm, but road bumps are absorbed nicely. The non-turbo engine feels a bit underpowered on acceleration, but is adequate around-town.
On the downside, the turning radius is wide and the road, wind and engine noise are noticeable at higher speeds.
Antilock brakes, traction control and side-impact airbags were optional. In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser received only two stars for the driver and four stars for the front passenger. The improved 2002-2010 PT Cruiser received four stars for both the driver and the front passenger. In the NHTSA side-impact crash tests, the 2001-2010 PT Cruiser received four stars for the driver and five stars for the rear passenger protection.
Original retro style, easy to customize, available with manual transmission, easy handling, versatility, cargo space, available as a convertible, easy access, affordable.
Fuel economy, lack of passing power on non-turbo models, low front scrapes easily, depreciates fast, below-average reliability.
Overall, the PT Cruiser sure is an eye-catcher with its retro style. It has roomy practical interior with a tall roof and versatile cargo space. It's fun to drive and you can choose between a two-door convertible or five-door wagon and between an automatic or manual transmission. The turbocharged models are also available. Unfortunately, the fuel economy is not very good and the reliability is also below average. The low front end scrapes easily. The cramped engine compartment makes it difficult to work on; to change the spark plugs, the top part of the intake manifold has to come off. The PT Cruiser doesn't hold the value very well and there are plenty of complaints about electrical, front end and other problems. An extended warranty is worth considering for these reasons.
The PT Cruiser's engine has a timing belt that needs to be replaced at recommended intervals. Timing belt replacement is labor intensive and could be costly.
The good news is a used PT Cruiser is not very expensive and there are so many Chrysler PT Cruiser accessories available, that you can easily customize your PT Cruiser to look like nothing else on the street.
What to look for buying a used Chrysler PT Cruiser
First, check the used car history records to find out if there were any reported accidents or other issues in the past. If you notice oil or coolant leaks, be careful; some oil leaks could be caused by internal engine problems and the repair is expensive. When you take your Cruiser for a pre-purchase inspection, ask to check for oil leaks especially around the front crankshaft seal; it's a known problem. A black soot in the exhaust or blue smoke may indicate excessive oil consumption. If you see any smoke, even a puff of blue smoke when the car is started, avoid the car. During a test-drive, if you notice the engine temperature rises above normal, avoid the car. Vibration and growling or whining noise coming from the wheels could indicate a bad wheel bearing, which is a fairly common issue. Watch for any noises from the suspension. There are plenty of suspension components that can go bad. Read our illustrated used car checklist for more tips what to look for. Before buying a used car, have it inspected by a mechanic of your choice.
Chrysler PT Cruiser problems
One of the issues that can cause the engine to overheat is a bad cooling fan motor. The cooling fan has two speeds, often one of them stops working. Sometimes this could happen intermittently. If the engine overheats, the repair could be quite expensive. The wheel bearings are not uncommon to go bad. Some suspension problems, like bad control arm
bushings are fairly common. The corrosion on the alloy rims often causes the tires to loose air.
A bad camshaft sensor could cause the code P0340 as well as some driveability issues. When replacing the camshaft sensor, it's best to use an original part bought from a dealer.
The part called watt's link in the rear suspension commonly goes bad causing the clunking noise from the rear when driving over bumps. If you Google 'watts link pt cruiser' there are few DIY instructions how to replace it. This website: Ptcruizer.com has a good collection of repair tips.
Change engine oil regularly. Check the tire pressure regularly; there are some complaints about tires loosing air due to corrosion on the rims.
The PT Cruiser 2.4L engine has a timing belt that needs to be replaced at recommended intervals. The owner's manual for the 2007 model PT Cruiser recommends replacing the timing belt every 102,000 miles or 170,000 km for a non-turbo engine and 100,000 miles or 160,000 km for a turbocharged engine. I'd recommend to replace the timing belt earlier, for example, at 80,000 - 90,000 miles, or at least, have it checked when the mileage is approaching the change interval. When doing the timing belt, it makes sense to replace the water pump as well. The flashing Check Engine light and occasional misfiring could be caused by bad spark plugs and wires; if you haven't done a tune-up in a while, it might be a good idea to do it now. If you notice that the engine temperature rises above normal, have the car checked before it overheats. Change transmission fluid at recommended intervals. Keep the coolant and other fluids clean and topped up. Have your car inspected at least once a year in a garage on the lift (e.g. when doing tire rotation) to keep it safe. If you need an owner's manual, here is the link: where to download the owner's manual.
More on maintenance:
| 10 simple tips how to keep
your car running longer »
| Easy car maintenance
checklist with photos »
2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser short specifications (US 5-door model)
| Overall length:
| 168.9 in (4290 mm)
67.1 in (1705 mm)
63.0 in (1601 mm)
103.0 in (2616 mm)
||5.5 in (140 mm)
|Estimated Base Curb Weight:
|| 3,070 lb (1392 kg)- manual transaxle
3,222 lb (1461 kg)- automatic transaxle
| Behind rear seats:
With rear seats out:
| 21.6 cu. ft. (0.61 cu. m)
62.7 cu. ft. (1.78 cu. m)
| 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder
150 bhp @ 5,100 rpm, 165 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder Turbocharged
180 bhp @ 5,200 rpm, 210 lb-ft @ 2,800-4,000 rpm
|EPA Fuel Economy (US mpg, L/100 km):|
| 4-cyl, Manual:
4-cyl Turbo, Automatic:
| city: 21 mpg (11.2 L/100 km)
hwy: 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km)
city: 19 mpg (12.4 L/100 km)
hwy: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
city: 18 mpg (13.1 L/100 km)
hwy: 24 mpg (9.8 L/100 km)
|| Unleaded regular, 87 octane
|Fuel Tank Capacity:
|| 15 US gallons (57 liters)
|Engine oil capacity:|
|Engine Oil with Filter:
2.4 Liter / 2.4L Turbo Engines
5.0 US qt (4.7L) (SAE 5W-30, API Certified)